First sponsored chapter of the week. Thanks again to amelianotbedelia, maguiling, EmpressYue and Suong for this chapter. Sorry it’s a little late, these two chapters were longer than usual…
Thank you also to Jennie for your donation, and for reading nonstop :p
In the four months he was away, the Jing Prince did quite a few things.
Without mentioning the rest, he had actually made a trip to the capital.
Things were bubbling up from all over in the capital, and calling it a matter of life or death wouldn’t be an exaggeration. He naturally couldn’t just sit in the Jing Province giving orders from afar.
Many things happened, and luckily his efforts were rewarded. After it was over, the Jing Prince didn’t care about how Emperor Xi was planning to clean up the mess in the capital. He secretly took his people back to the Jing Province. The moment he returned, he rushed over.
Xiao Hua came back from washing her face and saw him surrounded by the children who were asking all sorts of strange questions.
Actually, two year old children didn’t have long memories. They knew who dad and mom were, but after not seeing them for a while many children wouldn’t recognize them.
Yi Yi was such an example. Luckily Zhuo’er’s memory was much better than his sister’s. He was the one who recognized the Jing Prince and told his sister this was daddy. The word “dad” stirred up Yi Yi’s hidden memories, or perhaps father and daughters have a natural bond, or also perhaps she still remembered a man who always held her when she was younger. Although he didn’t smile, he was very patient. Whatever the case, Yi Yi and the Jing Prince warmed up to each other very quickly. Before long, she was clinging onto dad’s neck and laughing happily.
Zhuo’er was a little more opinionated. When the Jing Prince noticed his furrowed little brows, he recalled something and handed over a box of treats to him. Only then did Zhuo’er reveal a bit of childish delight.
His delight only lasted for a second. Perhaps little Zhuo’er felt that he had to be more sensible than his sister. He placed the box on the table and nodded in satisfaction.
He was essentially telling the Jing Prince “You’ve done well, knowing to earn money and buy things for your children back home.”
This scene made Xiao Hua feel extremely moved.
A woman’s mood was truly very strange. She had clearly been full of complaints, clearly been full of worry day after day, and clearly intended on giving him attitude. But the moment she saw that person, what ended up bubbling out was complete happiness and excitement. She had thrown the rest of her chaotic thoughts to the back of her mind and forget about them….
Ding Xiang and Chun Cao laid out their dinner. After putting the children in their spots for the meal, Xiao Hua and the Jing Prince sat at the table.
Xiao Hua’s face was rigid as she ate with her head lowered. Suddenly a pair of chopsticks put some vegetables into her bowl. She didn’t say anything and continued to eat. Perhaps because her mind was a mess, she only grabbed at her rice mechanically and didn’t think to grab any of the dishes. The Jing Prince sighed, and seeing that she had eaten the vegetables in her bowl he grabbed her some more. By the end, Xiao Hua had eaten quite a lot but the Jing Prince didn’t get to eat much.
But he actually felt neither hungry nor tired. Despite having rushed for over ten days to get here, his weariness completely disappeared the moment he saw her and the children.
Hot water was already prepared after dinner was done.
The weather was gradually getting colder. Zhuo’er and Yi Yi didn’t take a bath every day. This time she washed their faces, hands and feet before changing their clothes and letting Ding Xiang put them to sleep.
Xiao Hua went to take a bath, and the Jing Prince took one after she was done.
The Jing Prince was clearly quite filthy so they prepared a lot of water. The Jing Prince washed by himself, and after getting out of the tub he saw a set of men’s underwear on the shelf.
The clothes were brand new and clean. When he put them on, they fit him perfectly. The Jing Prince’s gaze softened and he walked out of the bathroom.
Xiao Hua lay stiffly on the bed, her back facing the outside. The Jing Prince got in bed and snuggled over, pulling her into his arms.
“Xiao Hua’er, let me sleep a while first. Haven’t slept in days.”
The person in his arms grumbled a few words and didn’t say anything else. After a while, Xiao Hua let out a breath and gradually relaxed her body.
The man behind her held her warmly in his embrace. She had been embraced this way for over two years, day and night. Every time she was in his arms, she had the feeling that all the hurt and unhappiness in her heart would completely vanish without a trace.
The room was very silent, to the extent that they could hear each other’s heartbeat. Xiao Hua slowly closed her eyes, and their hearts gradually beat in sync.
The Jing Prince slept for a long time, He only awoke on the morning of the third day.
During this time, someone had come over from Zhao Da’s side to check in with them. When they heard his highness was still resting, they turned and left. During this time, everyone in the pavilion couldn’t help but keep things down. Even Yi Yi knew to use her little finger on her lips to shush Hairball when he came to play, telling him not to speak too loudly since daddy was sleeping.
When Xiao Hua and the children were eating breakfast, the Jing Prince woke up. He randomly put on a shirt and came in with his waist-length hair scattered across his back. Joy flashed across Xiao Hua’s eyes. She instructed Ding Xiang to get an extra bowl and pair of chopsticks.
Breakfast was very simple: porridge, some side dishes, and a few steamed buns. The Jing Prince was probably really starving, only stopping after eating two bowls of porridge and three buns.
The children were taken out to play by Ding Xiang. Xiao Hua and the Jing Prince returned to the inner room. The Jing Prince’s eyes contained a trace of laziness after eating as he leaned against the head of the bed looking at Xiao Hua who was next to him. Seeing her thinking about how to start her inquiries, he pulled her into his arms and pulled out her hairpin, allowing her long hair to scatter across the bed. His large palms slowly brushed through it.
“You already know about my status. The current emperor is my father. There were five of us princes when we grew up, merely the five of us…..”
The Jing Prince slowly narrated as Xiao Hua lay with her ear against his chest. She could hear the beating of his heart, and followed along with his words to understand his world.
Xiao Hua was clear about the secret struggles within rich households. She had seen brothers arguing over family property until their faces were twisted. This included the fourth young master Ruan Siyi in her past life. He and his brother started off full of generosity towards each other, yet in the end hidden schemes sprung up from all over.
People were easily unbalanced. Since they were both sons, and both shared the same parents, why did one have to yield to the other? In the end, I’ve yielded the right of succession, yielded my future prospects, and you’re still suppressing me both overtly and secretly?
Xiao Hua had seen the heir treat the fourth young master well, and everyone in the estate had said the heir treated him well. But whether that was truly the case, only the person involved would know. Xiao Hua was Ruan Siyi’s favored concubine in the past, and naturally knew a few secrets. She knew what it meant to be superficial.
The struggles between men were never the same as the struggles between women over affection. The struggles within the estates of nobility could also not be compared to those within the royal family. It turns out that having a higher status and enjoying more glory didn’t come without a cost. The cost was that there was no such thing as familial affection within the royal family and brothers could also end up killing each other. You could choose not to fight, but the result was to be at the mercy of others.
The Jing Prince didn’t talk about it in detail, and gave a general summary. This included the explanation of why he hid Xiao Hua and the children away.
His explanation was very concise, but Xiao Hua could understand the meaning behind them. His intention had always been that if something happened to him, she and the children would be sent away, sent far, far away. As for him, he would naturally be dead….
This had been planned from the moment she got pregnant. This was why he had the western pavilion closed off and kept the children secret. This was also why he took them out on a trip, and why he arranged someone who looked like her as a decoy….
Xiao Hua’s tears had long since covered her face as she lay in his arms. This person, this person…..
How could he come to such a decision? What if something really happened to him, what would happen to her and the children?
In that instance, Xiao Hua was at a loss.
What would she have done if the Jing Prince had explained things to her back then? Leave with the children, or remain behind with him? It would probably have been a hard decision either way! The children were too young, and without their parents how were they supposed to live? But if she left him behind, she would definitely have been extremely unwilling….
Only now did Xiao Hua understand the meaning behind the Jing Prince’s actions.
Her heart felt sweet yet bitter yet sour yet hot. It was extremely complicated, and she was a mess from crying. Her hand swung wildly at the Jing Prince’s chest as she mumbled, “You’re too mean, too mean. What if something had really happened, how could you leave me and the children behind….”
The Jing Prince let out a light breath and brushed her hair once again. “Isn’t everything fine now?’
“What if it wasn’t? What would you have me do? Take the children and remarry?”
Following this shocking blow was a single, domineering phrase from the Jing Prince.
Seeing his bothered appearance, Xiao Hua both cried and laughed, “It’s your fault for not bringing me along. If something happened to you….” She hugged his neck, “…..I also don’t want to live….”
Seeing her eyes and nose red from crying, the Jing Prince’s heart softened until it was about to melt.
“Don’t be afraid. It’s fine now. Everything is over….” He murmured comfortingly and gave her a light kiss.
“Never do this again. Without you, I really can’t live on either…..”
Even if she continued living, she would be no different than a walking corpse.
After the crying and comforting, the two of them ended up tightly intertwined.
The children didn’t come bother them and the pavilion was extremely silent. Only in the afternoon did Xiao Hua shyly get out of bed. The Jing Prince looked at her with a fulfilled expression.
After fetching water herself, the Jing Prince was still too lazy to move. Xiao Hua could only finish washing herself and carry some water in to wipe him down. This person looked decent on the surface, but was extremely indecent on the inside. He insisted on lying there so he could have Xiao Hua wipe him down with a warm towel.
Perhaps because the things weighing him down had been completed, the Jing Prince’s attitude seemed somewhat different. While Xiao Hua’s face was red as she wiped him down, he actually turned to her and said with a stiff expression, “We’ve already had two children.”
Does that mean she wasn’t allowed to be shy?!
Despite thinking this and giving him a clearly embarrassed glare, she still wiped him down quite willingly. It wasn’t like she hadn’t done it before. She was just someone who would be embarrassed by it.
The two of them fumbled around for a little longer before Xiao Hua forced the Jing Prince to get up. She changed out the things on the bed, opened the doors and went into the courtyard.
There wasn’t a single person outside. Hearing the noise, Ding Xiang came out from the eastern wing.
Where’re Zhuo’er and Yi Yi?”
“Go bring some food over.”
Miss Tao’s man had come back.
He was someone who spoke little but was very courteous and refined.
These days they would often see him appear in the alley. Sometimes he accompanied Miss Tao into town. Sometimes he went out searching for his children to come back and eat. This person was almost weirdly taciturn, but many young wives and aunties would involuntarily blush when they saw him.
This was precisely because Miss Tao’s man was truly too handsome.
The most handsome man in the alley was the He family’s Scholar He. But compared to Miss Tao’s man, he wasn’t even fit to carry his shoes.
Only after seeing her man did everyone realize what sort of person could be a match for her. In the past, they always felt something was lacking when they tried to play matchmaker. Only now did they realize it was a feeling that they were well matched when they stood together.
On this day, Xiao Hua and the Jing Prince finished their breakfast and went to the morning market.
They walked and browsed, and when they came back, Xiao Hua’s wicker basket contained some fresh vegetables and a fish. The Jing Prince carried a few bags of fruit and snacks.
“Miss Tao. Came back from shopping?” One of the alley’s young women greeted them.
Xiao Hua smiled and nodded, and the two of them walked by.
From behind, they heard the young woman scolding her own man, “Look how good Miss Tao’s man is. He knows to go buy groceries with her and take walks with her. Look at yourself. When did you ever take a walk outside with me? Ever since this mommy married you, I’ve been toiling away for you at your house. I’ve really lost out….”
That man seemed to have quietly retorted but Xiao Hua couldn’t hear it clearly. She snuck a glance at the Jing Prince. He wasn’t looking at her but the hand that was holding hers under his large sleeves moved a little. Xiao Hua couldn’t help but let a sweet smile spill out.
Once they got to their place, they saw someone standing across from it.
Xiao Hua gave the Jing Prince a glance and entered the pavilion. The Jing Prince went over to the other side.
After a while, the Jing Prince came back.
“Highness, is it time to leave?”
Ever since the Jing Prince explained things to her, Xiao Hua knew that sooner or later they would have to leave this place. It’s just that having lived here for so long, she actually felt an inexplicable sense of reluctance. The Jing Prince seemed to have notice Xiao Hua’s unwillingness, and had never mentioned anything about leaving. Seeing Commander Lin appear, Xiao Hua thought it was probably time to go.
The Jing Prince nodded.
“Is it urgent?”
“We can stay one more day.”
After lunch, Xiao Hua pulled the children to the side for a talk.
Zhuo’er and Yi Yi’s understanding was limited so Xiao Hua could only tell them in a way they could understand: they had to leave this place and go home. The two still didn’t quite understand what it meant to leave this place. Xiao Hua muttered to herself before saying it meant that they couldn’t play with the little fellows in the alley anymore.
Hearing this, Yi Yi started crying. As she cried, she said “no, no”. Zhuo’er was a little better but his brows were also furrowed.
Xiao Hua didn’t know how to explain to the children that everything eventually came to an end. After all, this was something everyone had to experience as they grew. She could only crouch there and wait for her daughter to finish crying before wiping away her tears. She then told her and her brother that there would be other little playmates in the future. They could also come find these little playmates once they got older.
Yi Yi asked what it meant to get older. Xiao Hua said that it was when Yi Yi was as old as mom, and brother was as old as dad.
Xiao Hua also went to say her farewells with some of the young women she was close to. Her explanation was that she had to go settle down in her man’s hometown. After all, a falling leaf returns to its roots.
Cui Zhi, the blacksmith’s wife and the other women were all very reluctant to part with her. Xiao Hua felt guilty in her heart. Having interacted with these people for so long, only her person was real, and everything else was made up. But these neighbors had treated her very sincerely. In her most indecisive and helpless moments, they had not only helped her but also taught her quite a few things.
Towards their reluctance, she could only smile and tell a teary-eyed lie: I’ll still be back in the future if I get a chance….
The next day, the Jing Prince left East Yuling alley along with Xiao Hua and the two children.
They didn’t sell Xiao Hua’s little pavilion. Xiao Hua told the people that it was to leave behind a souvenir, and would come back to take a look if she got the chance.
Although there wasn’t much certainty, she thought that since there were so many years in life, perhaps there may be a chance in the future.
Zhao Da’s household also emptied out along with Miss Tao’s little pavilion. They had left without any notice. The people in the East Yuling alley wondered if Zhao Da had run off after Miss Tao’s older sister. After all, the two looked just about ready to become a couple.
Xiao Hua’s group of people had stirred up a wave in the East Yuling alley upon their arrival, and then left once again. The daily life in the East Yuling alley continued to pass day by day.
It feels like the palace isn’t as nice as the East Yuling alley. Perhaps it’s because of the mentality of the townsfolk. This author feels that kind of life is truly called beautiful. Of course, that kind of life is definitely also boring. Got too immersed, everyone can treat it as my ramblings.